Usually when being sent albums to review you have a week (if you’re lucky) on the general release. This doesn’t give much time to get to grips with what you’re reviewing, which leads to sometimes your true opinion (good or bad) being forsaken for publishing ahead or on the day of release. Happily this current album ‘Dream Of The Inbetween’ by Scottish indie darlings French Wives was sent to me a full 3 months before its scheduled release on the 7th of May. I’m publishing this review quite ahead of time purely for the reason I need to put it to bed so I can carry on with other releases I’ve been sent. If I don’t get this one out of my system, there is a chance I will listen to nothing else for months. Personally I’d be blissfully happy with that outcome, however in the interest of covering as many releases as I can it kind of holds one back.
French Wives, if you aren’t familiar with them are a five piece comprising of Stuart Dougan (vocals/guitars), Chris Barclay (bass/vocals), Siobhan Anderson (violin/vocals), Scott MacPherson (guitar/vocals) and Jonny Smith (drums/vocals) formed via mutual friends while at university. Hailing from Scotland, they are another notch on the bedpost of amazing acts to emerge from north of the border. Despite concentrating on building their fan base locally they have amassed a number of noteworthy support slots since their 2008 inception (Bombay Bicycle Club, The Mystery Jets and Two Door Cinema Club to name but a few). Their label Electric Honey is responsible for past releases of Scottish luminaries like Biffy Clyro, Belle & Sebastien and Snow Patrol, certainly good company to keep.
On to the album ‘Dream of the Inbetween’ first impressions are pleasing, the opening tracks ‘Modern Columns’ and recent single ‘Numbers’ have an instant appeal, very easy to listen. Vocalist Stuart Dougan has a lovely warmth about his voice, a heady mix of Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Editors Tom Smith. Musically it’s very anthemic, huge choruses and tight rhythms are cleverly woven with that new folk/rock combo that Idlewild were so successful with on ‘Post Electric Blues’ courtesy of some lovely Fiddle work by Siobhan Anderson.
Once you start clocking up the miles with this album the more subtle tracks start to dominate. There’s the beautiful semi-title track ‘The Inbetween’ is something akin to Coldplay’s ‘Parachutes’ very short, very beautiful and leaves you wanting that song or melody to be expanded into a full song. Where Coldplay didn’t capitalise on this, French Wives pull no punches reprising the mantra like lyrics of ‘The Inbetween’ in the stand out track on the album ‘Younger’. What this shows me is that although the album is a collection of wonderful individual songs, it was written as an album and has a wonderful flow as a result, something not achieved by many bands.
Although not really breaking any new ground with ‘Dream of the Inbetween’ what French Wives have done is take their time to produce the album. They’ve obviously drawn on their influences, but have completely raised the bar. This is stellar stuff and if there is any justice in this business, this album will sell by the bucket load. I look at what Elbow are doing and they are incredible successful, albeit they manage to produce 1 or 2 good songs per album that get stunning amounts of radio time, this is a gem from start to finish. It’s well polished without being over done, it’s inventive with wonderful melodies and great lyrics, it has choruses galore that will be no doubt bellowed back at the band at gigs all over the land this year.
Quite possibly the best album this year, if not this decade. It’s a keeper that I can now settle down and just bask in the beauty of rather than critique. Something this good merits worldwide attention, a band like this just needs a bit of luck now and to be backed by the right people on the radio….Zane Lowe I’m looking at you pal!
1. Modern Columns
3. Back Breaker
4. The Inbetween
5. Me vs. Me
6. Sleep Tight
8. Month of Sundays
10. The Sickness
Released: 7th May 2012
Label: Electric Honey
Format: CD / Download
For fans of: Elbow, Snow Patrol, Editors, Idlewild
French Wives on:
Get a free copy of one of the best songs ever ‘Younger’ here: http://frenchwives.bandcamp.com/album/younger-single